KAWHMU, Myanmar (Reuters) - Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to form a government free from corruption, empower workers and end reliance on foreign aid, as she campaigned on Monday for the southeast Asian country’s first free national vote in 25 years.
Wearing red shirts and waving party flags, thousands of supporters gave a rock-star welcome to Suu Kyi, who led the struggle against military rule in the former Burma for two decades, as she campaigned in her constituency on the fringes of Myanmar’s commercial capital, Yangon.
The Nov. 8 election will give more space to democratic activists, who were crushed during a half-century of military rule that ended in 2011, ushering in a semi-civilian, military-backed government of President Thein Sein which released political prisoners and opened the country’s economy.
“We need a government which is free from corruption for the development of the country,” Suu Kyi told the rally in Kawmhu, an impoverished, rice-growing area that is a stronghold for her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
In the run-up to the poll, Suu Kyi has pledged to speed up democratic reforms, scrutinize investment to limit environmental impacts and amend a junta-drafted constitution that bars her from becoming president.
“Developed country means a country whose citizens are able to work for their lives. We don’t want to be a country which needs to ask other countries for help,” said Suu Kyi waving from the stage decked with her own photographs.
Suu Kyi spent a total of 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and her release in late 2010. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991.
“I believe in her. She is the only person who can bring peace and development to our country,” said Saw Mu Htoo, 22, a member of the ethnic Karen youth organization, wearing traditional costume along with an NLD scarf.
“She and her party must win in the election,” he said, holding aloft the NLD’s red flag.
Having won a by-election in Kawhmu in 2012 that marked her re-entry into the political arena at the head of Myanmar’s largest party, Suu Kyi is expected to retain the seat easily.
She is running against four rivals drawn from the ruling bloc and smaller opposition parties.
“I’m campaigning all over the country but Kawhmu is special as the people here voted for me, so I could be a lawmaker in 2012 byelection,” said Suu Kyi.
Reporting by Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore